In the early days, it consisted of a two-day event split between two venues. The Saturday was spent at The Rover Works at Solihull, comprising of a factory tour and a 'play' on the test track. The Sunday was then spent off road at a site at Fenny Compton in Warwickshire. One of the tests at the factory was where owners allowed “officials” to set faults on the cars. The owners then had to fix the fault and drive the vehicle forward across a line, the first one across being declared the winner.
The 7th 'National' was held in November 1961. It was a wet weekend and followed the pattern above. There was no event in 1962, but in 1963, the event was held at Stratford Races and Fenny Compton; in 1966 the venue was Bredon in Worcestershire.
The start of the Rallies
With the advent of the Rover Owners Association (ROA) these National events gradually became Rallies with organised camping and caravanning and began moving around the country.
1967 was at Ancaster Lincolnshire; 1968 Raydon Suffolk; 1969 and 1970 Eastnor Park Herefordshire; 1971 Kettlewell Yorkshire; 1972 Scotland; 1973 Weaversdown Hampshire. With the exception of 2001 when Foot and Mouth prevented off road gatherings, there has been a National Rally every year since the 8th National in 1963.
The dates initially varied through the year, April, May, August, October and November until 1973 when the Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May was selected and has been the date ever since.
Hill trials to trials by cane...
These early events started to introduce the concept of the ‘trial’ with canes marking the gates to be passed. These were often over rough ground rather than the “how far can you get up the hill” test as was common with production car trials of the time. However the principals were similar and they have developed into the CCVT and RTV we know today.
The introduction of the Range Rover...
The 18th National in 1973 celebrated two milestones; 25 years of Land Rovers and the largest gathering of the newly introduced Range Rover. This Rally was hosted by Southern Rover Owners Club on military land at Weaversdown in Hampshire. This was the first of the ‘big’ Nationals, with 280 caravans and tents, run on the lines which we see today with trade stands and multiple competitive events over the three day weekend. Around 200 Range Rovers attended for a photo call. This was also the first National Rally run operationally and financially independent of the ROA and Rover Publicity Department.
First ARC event...
Number 23 in 1978 was the first of Association of Rover Clubs (ARC) events with this one hosted by the Anglian club.
40 years of Land Rover was celebrated at the 33rd National Rally, this was hosted by Staffs and Shrops Land Rover Club at Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire in 1988.
50 years was celebrated at the 43rd National in 1998 at Eastnor Park Herefordshire. This event was unusual in that it was run directly by the Association of Rover clubs with many regional and one marque clubs undertaking specific responsibilities. For example the site and its services were run by the Midland Rover Owners Club, Lanc’s & Cheshire took on the competition activities, Wye & Welsh did the off road run along with a spectacular run to the Breacon hills. Reading the “who did what” list shows that nearly every UK club had some involvement. Another feature of this event was that is was run over the full week.
The birth of the International Rally
The 1997 event in North Wales was billed as an International Rally and so can rightly claim to be the first (.....or so we thought! Upon publishing this information on the National 2008 website, Dennis Wright got in touch and sent us a copy of the Peak and Dukeries 1994 ARC National Programme, showing that their event was also billed as an “International Rally”. So.... maybe the P&D event was the first International Rally......unless you know different!).
A cynic may say if it is held outside England then it has to be an International event, however in reality Nationals had been attracting overseas visitors for some time and this was an attempt by the North Wales hosts to attract more international visitors.
There was a significant problem with this in that the event permit requires anyone staying on site to be a member of the body whose name is on the permit. In 1997 there had only been informal links between overseas clubs and the ARC so any international member attending had to be a member of one of the UK clubs.
This all changed in 1998: as Eastnor is a registered site it was possible to invite overseas clubs to attend. The opportunity was also taken during the 1998 event to hold a meeting between the ARC and the many overseas clubs attending where a formal method of affiliation was agreed.
The 2018 event will be the 62nd National Rally, hosted by the ALRC.
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